We had a super session at Brown’s Farm on Wednesday. It wasn’t a huge catch: there are never lots of birds around in April or May, as the summer migrants are still arriving and the resident birds are being territorial and spread out from their winter foraging flocks.
I had my most experienced lieutenant, Jonny Cooper, with me, so we set a lot of nets. We set them along the whole of the hawthorn hedge that runs across the fields adjacent to the old pheasant pen. They were placed on the eastern side of the hedgerow, away from the prevailing breeze, on the hedgerow side of the track left between the hedge and the oil-seed rape planted there.
The catch for the morning was: Long-tailed Tit 1; Dunnock 6; Robin 3; Blackbird 1; Blackcap 1; Whitethroat 6; Willow Warbler 1; Linnet 4; Yellowhammer 4(1). 27 birds ringed from 9 species and one recapture. The recaptured Yellowhammer was ringed on the farm in February of last year. Interestingly, the male Linnets and Yellowhammers were coming into breeding condition but the females weren’t. Both species breed somewhat later than birds like Blue and Great Tits: I think it is basically because the titmice feed on insects and their larvae, which are available earlier than the seeds that the Linnets and Yellowhammers feed on.
That said, the Whitethroats, which are also insect feeders, showed the same difference. However, the reasons are different: the males arriving first to set up territories: lots of testosterone involved. Then the females arrive and look for a mate, and they don’t come into breeding condition until somewhat later.
We set up our ringing station close to the entrance to the ride from the main track. Sitting down to process our first few birds, we were suddenly surprised by the loud calling of a Cuckoo. He was sat in the tree immediately above our heads. We then watched as he flew off across the fields. They are regular on the site. I always hear them when I am doing the BTO’s breeding bird survey; which I plan to do the first of next week.
The fields were alive with insects. When you hear all of the stories of the dearth of insects on farms, it is actually very pleasant to be surrounded by the continuous buzzing whilst working. We saw Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Orange Tip, Small White and Holly Blue butterflies along the ride.
The wind picked up at about 11:30, just as we started taking down. Once again, the rain started soon after we left site.